10 Must-Read Stories from Baltimore-Based Writers and Publications
May 21, 2020
Words: Rebecca Juliette
This week’s news includes: Baltimore’s canceled summer schedule, Hogan’s universal testing mandate for correctional facilities, a certain someone’s plans to celebrate Memorial Day at Fort McHenry, and more reporting from Maryland Matters, Real News Network, The Hill, and others.
Excerpt: A new poll from WYPR, the Baltimore Sun and the University of Baltimore shows former mayor Sheila Dixon, Mary Miller and City Council President Brandon Scott in a statistical three-way tie in the Baltimore City mayoral Democratic primary race, with 22% of voters still undecided just two weeks shy of the election.
“A couple of candidates could transcend, depending on how things go,” said Steve Raabe, the owner of OpinionWorks, which conducted the poll. “This is a race that really any one of three or four people could still win.”
Everything is a possibility right now and an impossibility right now.
Excerpt: Baltimore will not have Artscape, AFRAM or the July 4th fireworks this year. Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young announced that the city is canceling all special events with more than 250 people through Aug. 31 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I want to inform residents and visitors that the City of Baltimore will be canceling all special events through August of this year,” he said. “After consultation with our public health experts, we believe this is the best move for the health of our city and its residents.”
The decision affects some of Baltimore’s most popular summer events, including the Fourth of July Fireworks, Artscape and the Baltimore AFRAM festival, the mayor said. “Until we can see some type of downward turn [in the number of COVID-19 cases], all that is canceled.”
Excerpt: Maryland will begin universal COVID-19 testing at its prisons and juvenile detention centers, Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) announced Wednesday.
“Our state continues to make significant progress on all four of the necessary building blocks for our recovery, including on our long-term strategy to dramatically expand testing for COVID-19 across the state,” the governor said in a statement.
The announcement comes two days after the sixth Maryland inmate died from COVID-19. On Tuesday, Hogan said the state would offer appointment-free testing to asymptomatic individuals who have been exposed; critics said testing in Maryland has been insufficient.
When the city truck comes and you’re hungry, and you’ve been hungry, and they hand you a sandwich with one piece of baloney between two pieces of bread, that’s like saying ‘go die’ and that’s all the help we’ve been given.
Excerpt: In early April, Baltimore City’s Housing Authority threatened Reverend Annie Chambers with arrest and eviction for distributing food to her neighbors at Douglass Homes, citing a policy barring non-government organizations from giving food donations to public housing residents.
Rather than stopping Chambers’ mutual aid initiative, the incident led to widespread support for her work. Chambers says that the Housing Authority has not interfered with a giveaway since, and that the public attention has resulted in an increase in donations.
“We have not had any trouble from them since. People called The Housing Authority from Washington, New York, Philadelphia and Virginia,” Chambers told The Real News Network. “Senator [Mary] Washington and the Teachers Union called the Housing Authority. Many single individuals have called the mayor and the Housing Authority on our behalf.”
Excerpt: The Maryland Department of Health reported 1,784 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, setting a new high mark four days after the state began reopening its economy. Maryland is now reporting 41,546 cases, including nearly 2,000 people who have died from the disease.
Along with the new positive tests, 5,368 people tested negative for the coronavirus in the 24 hours leading up to 10 a.m. ET — meaning roughly 25% of the 7,152 tests in that period resulted in positive diagnoses.
The spike in new cases comes more than two weeks after Maryland’s previous high of 1,730 cases, The Baltimore Sun reported.
The overall number of people hospitalized due to COVID-19 in Maryland fell by 26 to 1,421, the health department said. Of that number, 537 people are in intensive care.
Maryland remains under a state of emergency. But as of Friday afternoon, retailers, hair salons and churches were allowed to reopen at 50% of their maximum occupancy under a “Safer at Home” policy.
Excerpt: When it comes to quarantine, people who are over the age of 65 are among those who authorities said it was most important to stay at home. Yet as they stay home — even after initial reopening begins — they are also potentially facing isolation of the social kind.
This loneliness presents vulnerability to mental health concerns. It’s also the type of stress can be addressed on a neighbor-to-neighbor level, and it can start with a call.
That’s what led 1st District City Councilmember Zeke Cohen and a group of 22 organizations including government leaders, healthcare institutions, mental health professionals, churches and community-level groups to launch the Baltimore Neighbors Network to launch on April 1.
What I take from this is, you could be the hardest person in Baltimore, but if you hurt an animal, you’re a piece of shit.
Charles DeBarber, Filbert Street Garden’s caretaker
Excerpt: After word got out that Ed, the Filbert Street Garden’s baby goat, had been snatched in the night, there was consternation across Baltimore, with people hoping for the best, but fearing the worst.
Did the the two teenage boys who broke into the popular community garden in Curtis Bay plan to eat the eight-month-old animal or, worse, abuse it?
But after Ed was returned unharmed last night a little before 10 p.m. (under circumstances that garden managers are trying to keep a bit vague), it doesn’t seem like the motivations were terribly dark.
Excerpt: As recently as two weeks ago, Baltimore was lagging far behind cities like Washington, DC, Oakland, and Minneapolis when it came to closing all but a fraction of its streets to cars for exercise and recreation, even as the COVID-19 pandemic continued to bring most cities’ traffic levels to a halt.
But support for “Slow Streets” has picked up so much steam in Baltimore recently that a new bill passed by the City Council Monday, and headed to the Mayor’s desk for his signature, could close at least 25 miles of road, spread out across all 14 City Council districts in Baltimore, for exercise.
Temporary Street Space for Pedestrians and Cyclists (Bill 20-0532) would require the Baltimore City Department of Transportation (DOT) to close at least one mile of roads to car traffic in all 14 of the City Council’s districts for the duration of the coronavirus emergency in Baltimore.
The bill was introduced by Baltimore City Council President and mayoral candidate Brandon Scott, with some assistance from City Council Transportation Committee Chair Ryan Dorsey. 10 other Councilmembers co-sponsored the bill, including Council Vice-Chair Sharon Green Middleton, Council President candidate Shannon Sneed, and City Comptroller candidate Bill Henry.
Excerpt: This spring, one saving grace during the spread of the coronavirus across the state has been access to Maryland’s great outdoors. And now with Governor Hogan’s eased restrictions on many outdoor activities, as well as the stay-home order lifted for non-Baltimoreans, there are plenty of ways to safely get some more fresh air. Here’s the latest on getting outside during the continuing times of COVID-19. One key takeaway: not all has returned to normal.
Excerpt: A prominent Baltimore pastor said he would continue to hold two services each Sunday for up to 250 people, defying an executive order from the city’s mayor that extended stay-at-home directives.
“About 26 members, plus five police cars and about eight officers were in attendance,” said the Rev. Alvin Gwynn Sr., senior pastor of Friendship Baptist Church in northeast Baltimore. “And three tv reporters and cameramen.”
He added that the Mayor was there with the police.
This was not the first time services were held during the quarantine caused by the coronavirus.
“I don’t know what the mayor’s trying to do,” Gwynn said. “He wants to have a knock-down about First Amendment rights? He’s the mayor, not the pastor of churches in the city.”
Excerpt: President Trump will recognize Memorial Day at Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine in Baltimore, the White House confirmed Wednesday.
Trump and First Lady Melania Trump will participate in a ceremony at the site on Monday, according to a senior administration official.
“President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump will again lead the American people in solemn remembrance of those brave American patriots who laid down their lives so we can live in the land of the free,” the official said in a statement.
Words: Rebecca Juliette
Header image: Fort McHenry image courtesy of National Parks Conservation Association